California Is the First U.S. State to Legally Recognize a Third Gender

Residents may choose male, female, or non-binary on official state documents.

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On Sunday, California governor Jerry Brown signed a landmark legislation, known as the Gender Recognition Act, which officially recognizes a non-binary gender option on California state-issued IDs, driver’s licenses, and birth certificates.

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Senate Bill 179 will make it an easier process for individuals who want to change their gender on legal documents. The law states that a person would no longer require a sworn statement from a physician, approving the gender transition, for the legal document to reflect a different gender, the Los Angeles Times reports. It will also create a new process for people under the age of 18 to apply for a gender change on their birth certificates. The law is set to go into effect in 2019.

“With the passage of [Senate Bill 179] California continues its fight for a more inclusive society, even as some in Washington continue to try to take away rights from LGBT people,” Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who co-authored the bill with Sen. Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego), said in a statement. “With Gov. Brown’s signature on this bill, transgender and non-binary people will now be able to identify themselves as they are, not as who society tells them they should be.”

Weiner, who is openly gay and has spoken out about LGBT issues, also made remarks about the momentous decision on Twitter.

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Sen. Atkins also thanked Gov. Brown on Twitter for his decision.

The National Center for Transgender Equality defines non-binary as an individual who does not identify with the category of “man” or “woman,” or “male” or “female.” The non-binary category may include transgender people, but not all non-binary people are necessarily transgender.

California is the first state in the U.S. to legally allow a gender option aside from male or female. Several other countries already accept or have begun motions to include a third gender, including Australia, Canada, Germany, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Thailand, and the U.K.

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